What does it take to be a leader or entrepreneur in the social innovation field? To find  the secret to such success, 200+ people came together at the bigBang! event in Cleveland, Ohio on October 28.

The event was hosted by Cleveland Social Venture Partners, and headlined by leadership and systems thinking guru, Peter Senge, with support from Mobile Innovation Lab, a Cleveland-based Design Thinking consultancy.

The event was live-streamed over the Internet into schools and businesses by the Uncomn.tv network.

You can see the founders of Mobile Innovation Lab Ken Chapin and Abby Straus (also a partner in M&B) facilitate the 90 minute brainstorming session that led into Peter Senge’s world cafe activity. Click here to watch the video.

You can also download a copy of what everyone had to say. Click here.

For those who are interested in undertaking a similar activity, here’s a workshop you might like to try with your own social entrepreneurship community:

1. What are the big societal and technological changes/trends that we’re responding to in Social Innovation?

2. What’s working really well in the world of Social Innovation? What do we want to KEEP? ABANDON? RE-INVENT?

3. What leadership qualities are essential for success in Social Innovation? Think about great leaders you admire and your own strengths and successes as a leader?

4. You have been asked to design a leadership development program. Thinking about the qualities/skills required (from question 3), what are some activities that might help develop/practice those skills.

5. Describe a social innovation project you might like to lead today. 5 word title, 25 word description and how will it benefit society/the world?

The task is to harness the collective brainpower of the military and their suppliers on three continents to work out how to better manage complex projects in a more uncertain, ambigious and rapidly changing world and to publish the recommendations as a White Paper.

It’s a complex project in its own right. The project taps into the expertise of defence procurement agencies in Australia, the US, Canada and the UK, as well as  defence and aerospace suppliers such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, NASA, Raytheon, Rolls Royce and Thales.

The Zing/Maverick and Boutique network has been facilitating a series of conversations for the International Centre for Complex Project Management. The team comprises Nick Obolensky (in the UK), Abby Straus (in the US) and John Findlay (roving).

A small army of consultants is helping to write the 10 chapters. The chapters deal with the difference between complicated and complex, the leadership styles and competencies required, the tools and methods that are proving most useful, better ways to deal with risk, new approaches to knowledge management and education as well as issues that require further research.

For each chapter, participants were asked to consider how to deal more successfully with the kinds of problems/difficulties that might be encountered in the future. Each question was accompanied by a set of prompts to probe all the different aspects of the issue.

After talking in pairs about each question for about 5-10 minutes to have as much air-time as possible, the task force members captured and shared their ideas using the Zing complex adaptive learning system, which helps shape emergent knowledge. Participants then read aloud and looked for the patterns or stand-out ideas. Examples of past project successes and failures were also recorded.

Here are the kinds of questions we have been asking:

1. BASELINE TRENDS.  What for you is complex and how do you deal with it? Compared with what? What are the big trends/discontinuities emerging?
2. What kinds of EXECUTIVE BEHAVIOURS, LEADERSHIP QUALITIES or CULTURE are essential for great projects or lead to project failures? What qualities do you need to develop?
3. Describe in 25-50 words a real example of a project failure, cost-over-run, cancellation, etc. where issues of EXECUTIVE BEHAVIOURS/LEADERSHIP QUALITIES/CULTURE was a factor.
4. What is RISK for the private sector? What is risk for the public sector?
5. Give examples of projects where RISK was poorly or well managed and the factors that led to these outcomes.
6. COMMERCIAL MANAGEMENT. What do you see as the main contracting challenges in the future?
7. Describe a project where COMMERCIAL MANAGEMENT was either poor or brilliant and the factors that led to these outcomes.

It’s a brand new day at the three StarShine Academies in Phoenix, Arizona and CEO Trish McCarty and Principal Jan Shoop are a long way from home. Back in Arizona, the children are all learning, the teachers are teaching and the sun is shining brightly.

Here we were in England, training the first group of StarShine facilitators, at Broughton Castle, where Shakespeare in Love starring Joseph Fiennes was filmed, and whose near relatives are the current Lords of the Manor.

There was a roaring fire. Everyone sat around in armchairs and lounges. And the interactive computer system was displayed on a portable screen, mounted on a table. More like morning tea than a training room.

The StarShine teacher enhancement program is now offered on the Zing platform to make it easy for new facilitators to learn to apply the 16 StarShine Principles, to use brain science to get students in the mood for learning.

Here are the principles:

  • Every person born is unique and perfect and on their own road to discovering their dreams and highest calling.
  • We are on the planet to help one another toward achieving individual goals for the Greater Good of All.
  • We each do the best that we can on each day, depending on what we know and understand, according to Maslow’s Hierarchy.
  • Music is the first language.
  • Beautiful, safe environments that are clean and include art, music and nature inspire creativity and help to secure man’s sustainability.
  • Teaching and learning gardening is a necessary part of becoming one with nature and the environment and is a means for personal health and community building.
  • Celebrating local culture and global diversity allows for a rich life.
  • Practice Connect versus Convince; Exercise Compassion versus Judgment, Love versus Fear.
  • Individuals practice being ambassadors for their own country as well as a country other than their own.
  • Co-learning demonstrates that every person is a teacher and every teacher is a student.
  • Financial literacy fosters hope, belief and abundance as it facilitates a wise use of assets.
  • Partnering and mentoring fosters interdependence toward building common ground, as in “the world agrees on time so everyone can communicate.”
  • Holistic explains that each event reinforces all. The pursuit of success and happiness, both individually and collectively, must include body, mind, spirit, health and wealth.
  • Leveraging technology facilitates connecting people; personal contact is vital.
  • World peace is a result of individual peace.

StarShine kids are very special. Many left their previous schools under a cloud. Most come from poor or dysfunctional families who live in what used to be some of the most problematic neighbourhoods of Phoenix.

Every day, StarShine celebrates new possibilities and achievements as a community. Each morning, everyone attends an Opening Ceremony. Every afternoon there is a Closing Ceremony before going home.

StarShine focuses on hope. Teachers and students work together in Mastermind groups to help each other build on our strengths and achieve our goals. Everyone creates a personal Visionboard and leafs through a dozen or so glossy magazines, to find pictures or headlines that resonate with what they would love to happen differently in our lives. Teachers work alongside their students, to update their Vision Board and share their dreams.

In this way young people develop a sense of purpose in their lives and confidence in meeting people. When  you go to a StarShine school don’t be surprised to be greeted by a student who offers to shake your hand and introduce him or herself. “Good morning. I’m Paul Smith and I am going to be a scientist. How can I help you?”

Everyone on the course at Broughton Castle was encouraged to use one or more StarShine principles as part of a learning activity they would facilitate for the group. One participant chose Music is the First Language, and asked us to describe how music has made an amazing contribution to our lives. As the contributions were read aloud and acknowledged, tears welled up in many eyes. Here’s what some had to say:

* Music has often been my friend when all other things seemed to go.  It is what I dance to, clean to, relax to, cry to, motivate myself often to, and even work with.  To me music is my emotional companion and friend.
* Classical music slows my thoughts down and expands my mind. popular music can be uplifting. anthems make me cry.
* Music is definitely my first language, I love to listen to uplifting powerful music and also calming meditative music, I love singing and dancing to music, music that is full of life.
* I love to dance and I feel the rhythm through me
* I use certain rock songs for energy and inspiration…lyrics matter to me as much as the ‘sound’.  Some are profound and really connect me back to myself.  Also use chanting music regularly  for relaxing and meditating, boosting energy and refocusing.
* Music is a mental and historical anchor. At different moments past, certain songs have an emotional significance as you feel certain feelings.

Here’s a sample of some of the activities from the StarShine Teacher Enhancement program that speaks to the 13 StarShine principles and is available on the Zing platform.

1. Thumbprints – ask another person “What five things about you are really unique? Report what you have discovered/learned.
2. Help one another – Turn to the person next to you and ask what they currently most need. Discuss how you might be able to achieve their goals in some way. Report back – their goal and how you could help them.
3. Thinking about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, what for could/should we focus on today that might better meet your needs?
4. Thinking about each of the points of the star – body, mind, spirit, health and wealth – describe an activity where we could practise all or most of the aspects at the same time.
5. The garden is at the centre of StarShine. In what ways could gardening and nurturing connect us to nature and our community?
6. What kinds of activities/events/ceremonies could we engage in to celebrate local culture and global diversity e.g. 11 days of peace and sustainability, 9/11 to 9/21, taking care of animals?
7. How could you convert shame, blame and victim stories into proactive life stories, where you decide where your life is going instead of reliving the past?

In the backwater we call local government, in what we used to call the 3Rs – “roads, rates and rubbish”, change is happening, but not the kind of change we like.

All across America, for example, local governments are struggling to pay the bills, dependent as they are on taxes on business activity and property. Both are in the doldrums as a result of the collapse of property prices from their bubble highs, and the tight credit that struck at local business activity.

Some parts of the US heartland are in a sorrier state. Closed factories and plants are leaving behind shellshocked families who thought their jobs were secure well into the future. These are the communities where the big employers who have ignored the winds of change, are facing intense competition from communuties halfway around the world in India, China and other parts of Asia and South America.

The quality of life in some of these communities has plummeted, although overall the U.S. continues to do well compared with the rest of the world.

In my own country, our perceptions of Lifestyle Quality continues to rise. Australia is now second after Norway on the United Nations Human Development Index, a combined measure of standard of living, education and life expectancy. The United States is in 13th place after countries such as Ireland, Japan, Finland, France and Switzerland.

Australia has survived the global economic downturn with less pain than many others. One of the reasons Australia is doing relatively well, is we took our medicine over the past 20 years. We thought about the future, and the changes that were flowing through society. And we started to do things differently, to regard the role of Local Government as also embracing economic, environmental, cultural and spiritual worlds. We began to invent new services and programs that embraced a wider spectrum of life, and smarter ways to deliver them.

Futurist, Dr. Peter Ellyard, author of Designing 2050, is one of Australia’s “thought leaders”. He has helped cities and towns re-invent themselves and create a better future for their citizens using a holistic approach. His ideas about the transition from a cowboy to a planetary culture have influenced many to change their ways. To think and act differently.

He has helped local government, business, universities and school education sectors rethink their roles, and begin the process of adapting to the new world that is emerging. The focus has been, not so much on eliminating jobs through process innovation, which has been the American focus, but the opposite. The creation of new opportunities to which valued staff can be redeployed. The more intimate engagement of citizens in the processes of designing and creating more human and nature friendly ways of living

He uses a “Preferred Futures” methodology and the Zing team meeting system for many of his large scale local government interventions. In diverse groups of 20 to 60 people at a time, the citizens of a community  contribute their ideas in response to questions that ask them to think about what kind of future they would like and how they can achieve it. They map out an ideal, but largely unattainable Ideal Future, a Probable Future that will result from the continuation of present trends, and settle for a Preferred Future that is both achievable and a big stretch. Then they write a Future History back to present times to detail the steps required to achieve their goals. For each community, he conducts 10 to 30 workshops with the help of a “roadie” who sets up and manages the technical aspects of the system, the wireless keyboards, the giant shared screens and the software. In this way, every voice is heard and valued, and contributes to the outcome.

The program is extremely productive and energizing. Typical of the output of these workshops is the 700 ideas generated in a 90 minute session contained in this report for the City of Townsville in Central Queensland. The city and several consulting firms in the city now have their own portable Zing team meeting systems to continue the economic development and community building process.

Here is a workshop for inventing new to the world products using his Planetary Culture values model:

1. Describe a Spaceship Culture product or service that incorporates one of the new values.
2. Describe a Spaceship Culture product or service that incorporates two of the new values.
3. Describe a Spaceship Culture product or service that incorporates three of the new values.

What if the explosion in the economic activity and knowledge work we regard as the Knowledge Age (1980-2010) was almost over and a new economic imperative was suddenly upon us? The Wisdom Age (2010-)? The weak signals from the future point this way.

How might such a trend affect the way we think about the world and the new kinds of products and services that people want? And the new kinds of jobs people will do?

There have always been wisdom workers. Community and business leaders, ethicists, judges, mediators and spiritual gurus. But the focus on wisdom work has reached a new intensity. There’s a whole bunch of new positions being advertised such as Corporate Ethics Officers, Certified Ethical Hacker, Business Continuity Managers as well as “green collar” work such as Environment Compliance Consultants, Energy Efficiency Engineers, Renewable Energy Coordinators and Ecological Footprint Accountants.
Although our scientists, academics and the R&D departments of big corporations are creating new knowledge at an exponential rate, we planetary citizens are increasingly frustrated by the slow speed at which we collectively deal with the world’s most wicked problems.
There is now an expectation we must learn to live more lightly on the planet, to reduce our impact on other species, to care more for our fellow citizens, to resolve the issues that divide us.To do this, more and more jobs will be created to wisely apply our knowledge. Paradoxically, we are also creating the tools that will help to automate/democratize this kind of work, so that ordinary people are able to make use of the same kinds of methods that were previously used only by experts.
A pioneer in this field is Linda Newman, Associate Professor of Education at Newcastle University in Australia (pictured). Linda is the joint creator of a process for resolving ethical dilemmas known as the Ethical Response Cycle.
A version of her method is included in her own electronic meeting title Working Wisely that can be used by anyone with less than a day’s facilitator training to explore and resolve complex ethical issues with greater certainty.
Linda uses her method to help early childhood teachers and carers develop professionally.
Participants learn about the ethics by observing and sharing their own reactions to a hypothetical dilemma and making sense of the patterns in the group’s responses. The dilemmas are presented as a series of “guided discovery questions” that take participants on a learning journey. Each step of a complex case study is followed by a more impossible dilemma or unexpected scenario that needs to be resolved.
Participants engage in a type of high level discussion which Linda calls Ethical Dialectical discourse, which must not only resolve the conflict’s between indvidual opinions, but must also satisfy a personal, professional ethical standard or legal requirement.
Here’s an example of a workshop from Working Wisely. It’s called the Automatic Teller Machine Fairy dilemma:
1. A friend comes to tell you that they have discovered that the automatic teller machine in your town is somehow making errors in calculation. Every withdrawal is receiving $20 too much without the client’s balance showing it. What do you do and why?
2. The “Automatic Teller Fairy” has been helping out many people in your town for a week now. Word has spread. The error has been discovered and rectified. The Daily Bugle reports the names of everyone who used the teller and how often. Your mother (or someone you respect) calls you to talk about it. How do you feel about what you decided to do and why?
3. How do you feel when your employer raises the issue the next day, and why?
4. What does this story have to do with ethics, and why?
5. Some people returned to the teller many times. Write 25 words about how they were thinking.
6. Some people reported the mistake and returned the money. Write 25 words about the type of thinking they used to inform their decision to return the money.
7. Some people who had very little money used the machine only on days where they really needed it. Write 25 words about the type of thinking they used to decide when to, and when not to, access the machine.
8. We have been talking about ethical perspectives which have theories to explain them. Sum up the ethical issues in this story.

So much of what we do as organization leaders is the old command and control model. Decide the strategy and cascade the plan to every level. Some staff, customers and suppliers buy into such plans, but many do not.

But what if it was possible to allow the new strategic directions and the action plans to emerge organically through the interplay of people within the organziation so they own the strategy? Would the plan be any different?

The answer is yes. But different in a surprising way. When you connect the capacities and interests within a group systemically, new-to-the-world possibilities emerge aligned to the needs of the people AND the organization. They become valuable imperatives for both.

Such was the case in Pittsburgh, Pennylvania in late July 2009, when some 30 community leaders came together to explore how they could continue to build upon their work and their newly acquired skills as serving leaders.

It was a coming together of three different cohorts who only knew members of their own group, although they shared a common purpose as serving leaders.

The Serving Leader program was developed by business consultant Ken Jennings and inner-city non-profit champion John Stahl-Wert. It is a unique action-centred “life’s journey” approach to leading by serving the interests of others. It has five aspects. Build on strengths. Blaze the trail. Raise the bar. Upend the pyramid. Run to great purpose. It’s older than Methusalah!

The session that was to occupy the morning and early afternoon was designed by Abby Straus, leadership coach, facilitator and cultural creative and Amy Skolen, organization development consultant who works as a kind of horse-people whisperer.

We were using a whole bunch of wireless keyboards connected to a computer and a display so we could discuss and then respond to questions presented on the screen. After a few warm-up activities we worked in pairs to explore the warmth and power of the connections of people within the cohorts, then shared our ideas with the entire group. This served as a useful introduction of people to each other and revealed the culture/essence of this fledgling community.

Next each pair interviewed a partner about their strengths and introduced them to the whole group. But before the introductions we foreshadowed the next question so people could pay attention to the strengths that could complement their own.

What happened next obeys the laws of complexity theory. Biologist Stuart Kauffman shows that when you connect about half of the active agents in a system new order emerges through a kind of cross-catalytic effect. People then identified who they would like to join with and why they were complementary. As numerous cross-connections were made, a powerful sense of purpose began to emerge together with an outpouring of simple but doable action plans and commitments to make it happen.

For the grand finale, the group crafted the words of a collective Gregorian Chant, a few words that captured the essence of their new “great purpose”. We gathered around the screen to sing the words, first solo, then sotto voce until every voice was heard. The voices rose in volume and exuberance to a celebratory full-throated choral crescendo. Then a beautiful silence.

The words were both a powerful statement of group intent and feedback about our collective co-performance as participants and facilitators.

Here’s a sample of what we crafted and chanted:

* Tremendous transforming testaments to timeless truths!
* Opening the onion of opportunity.
* Merging motivations of members in a momentous movement.
* Agents of impact for the renewal of culture.
* Connecting pieces of the puzzle together to reveal the Divine.
* Many minds making marvelous music.

You can use this workshop method to explore how to serve each other’s interests:

1. Honoring each other – In what fabulous way has another person in your group, touched, inspired or challenged you. Who and what did they do?
2. Discovering possibilities – Ask your partner to describe 3-5 valuable strengths, capabilities or resources they bring to the world. Write a 25-word description of what you have just learned/discovered.
3. Making connections: Choose one or two strengths that are in the room and explain how your collective strengths could be leveraged to start a really important project, program or activity in the community beyond what you could do alone. Give an example.
4. How would you like to be served by the group. Describe the kind of support you would like to give/offer.
5. Knowing how people would like to be served by the group, how do we make that happen?
6. What is happening in your life/business/community etc. that you would like help with?
7. Thinking about the ideas we have generated for taking our organization/group forward and our individual requests in the group, where do you feel drawn to commit, and what will you commit to doing?
8. Create a 5-6-word snazzy slogan/song of OUR GREAT PURPOSE. e.g. exceptionally exotic expressions of eager earthbound essences. Use allitration, metaphor, rich words etc.